This movie is an anomaly. “(500) Days of Summer” is coming at a time when we are all tired of romantic comedy’s that are promising to be something new and exciting. This movie was marketed as a romantic comedy which was new and exciting. But that’s really the only way to describe this little gem of a movie. Sure it’s not without a flaws, but it’s difficult to find a romantic comedy(or a movie for that matter) with such a beautiful sense of melancholy, flashes of laugh out loud comedy and an emotional ride from highs to lows which actually affect the viewer.
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is our not quite typical lead. Tom is working at his dead end job as a greeting card writer and half aspiring to be an architect, his routine life is one day interrupted by Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Tom is immediately enraptured by Summer’s stunning looks and intriguing demeanor and decides that he must have her. This is where the movie takes a little detour from the schmaltzy beaten track of your average romantic comedy. Everything is just a little bit off the normal axis. With endings being presented at the beginning of the story, beginnings taking place at the end and everything else just a little bit out of whack.
This narrative style is one of the movies strongest points. Instead of ridiculous running to airport scenes or appearing in the pouring rain outside the girl’s front door, we are told from the very beginning that “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” So with the big climax taken out of the equation, the entire movie turns into a story about what happens in between the meeting and the weepy finish. But wait, there aren’t any of those either! Tom and Summer meet boringly at work and the big weepy finish simply isn’t here. Now you start to get the sense of just how big a risk director Marc Webb and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webber took. Each different scene is prefaced by a number. This representing the days since Tom meeting Summer. Thus the brackets around (500). This is a very tricky narrative style to keep up throughout an entire movie. They manage it extremely well. Just. Often the movie can feel as if they may be on the very edge of using the technique as a stunt, but they never quite slip into that territory. Instead the movie is as light and fresh as new love itself, though never afraid to plunge you from joy straight into sadness.
Another pitfall which many romantic comedy’s fall victim to is an awful script. Filled with schmaltz and stilted dialogue. They can easily lapse into a slew of cliches, each one less romantic and less comedic than the last, and very rarely actually achieve either of their abbreviated genres. This movie however, is filled with plenty of each. There are moments which will having you rolling around on the floor laughing and moments which are nothing short of true romance. None of the lines feel that they were forced, each one flows very natural from each character. This gives the movie a more realistic feel which is also missing from the main selection of romantic comedy’s that come out now a day. It feels as if the characters have been plucked from reality and put onscreen, not the other way around. That just makes the experience of the movie all that much more meaningful.
But it’s the acting which is the movies real achievement. Particularly from the two leads. Jospeh Gordon-Levitt is an absolute revelation here. He is never to over the top in the sadder scenes which would compromise the feeling of reality, and he plays the humorous moments with the expertise of a seasoned professional. In fact the entire movie rests on his performance. If he had failed, so would the movie. In such a strange style as this, it would be easy for his performance to be lost in the melee of different days of Summer, but to the writers and directors credit as much as his own, his performance is fantastically memorable and is one of the reasons that you’ll come back for repeat viewings over and over again. Summer is played perfectly by Zooey Deschanel. She is playing a woman who lives in the moment. Zooey is fantastic, she plays Summer with fantastic restraint and none of the over-the top melodrama that usually accompanies such performances. She makes it difficult for the viewer to figure out whether she’s the devil or just misunderstood, or whether it’s Tom’s fault that she keeps slipping away. The two leads were perfectly cast.
The movie is about two things really: this being the innovative style and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. These two aspects of the film work together brilliantly to create a melancholy piece with fantastic humor and bittersweet romance which can leave you perplexed, upset, happy and sad all at the same time. The ending may make some not like the movie as much. Still, if you can look past that you’ve got a truly fantastic movie which will stand and benefit from repeat viewings.